Spreadsheets, Budgets and Formals

I’m not a big fan of spreadsheets – prefer databases more – but it needs to be taught. It can be a useful tool in life. Engaging and motivating low-ability year 10 maths students can be challenging the best of times. Here is a lesson I prepared that would teach them a life skill of budgeting using spreadsheets.

Lesson Activity

Year 10 formals is months away but this is something most year 10 girls are excited about. So when I said we’ll create a budget for it, everyone was excited to talk about something interesting. ┬áMotivation covered!

  1. Brainstorm budget items (“What do I need for the formals?”) – emphasise no right or wrong answer, if not personally relevant then just set the budget to $0. The point of this step is to engage.
  2. Create a new spreadsheet and enter all the items under the heading of “What I need”. Good opportunity to revise basics of file creation/saving, renaming worksheet (Budget), data entry and Format-ting text and columns
  3. Add new columns with headings of Min, Max, Range (excellent chance to revise these statistical concepts). Each student enters their own budget, again no right or wrong. Format columns to currency.
  4. Calculate Range (=Max -Min columns); revise/teach use of Excel functions and autoFill.
  5. Calculate minimum and maximum budget totals; use autoSum or use SUM function
  6. With 9 months to go, create a monthly savings budget (=total / 9); some students don’t know the division symbol in Excel
  7. What are your cheapest (use MIN function) and most expensive (use MAX function) items
  8. Email your spreadsheet (make sure they all know how to attach files to email)

Discussion points

  • Can you afford your monthly budget (minimum, maximum)?
  • What adjustments can you make to afford the items? Are you working?
  • Would you consider borrowing or even doing without?
  • Would you negotiate with your parents? Can your budget spreadsheet help you talk to them?


The girls enjoyed this lesson. The discussions were interesting and for my part, enlightening: truly amazing what teenagers deem they need and how different they all can be. They did not even mind the spreadsheet and statistics bit and were all keen to follow the flow of the lesson. They compared their results and even they were amazed at how different they all were.

I like this lesson because it was relevant, engaging and differentiated.

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